Innovation need not be only limited to a product or technology. When you combine social innovation with technology and product innovation, the impact on society can be disruptive.

Akash Singh, Young Changemaker, work on problems with waste management by upcycling waste and employing prisoners to create products thus playing a major role in their rehabilitation.

Akash, tell us about your Background?

After finishing my 10th grade,I enrolled for a 3-year diploma in Civil Engineering at the prestigious government polytechnic education society ,Manesar Gurgaon. Then, I started my own company called Energinee Innovations.My father is a farmer and my mother a homemaker.

I was an average student, who used to run away from studies, but my first science project which I had   made back in 9th standard proved to be a turning point. It was my very first science project and it got selected for the CBSE science exhibition.  It brought me several accolades, which inspired me to take my innovations forward.  That day I realized that it is my innovations that bring me acknowledgement and recognition. Since then I have been making projects, organising science fests in my village and tinkering with inventions.  Even in my college, I was more involved in the Electrical and Mechanical department instead of sipping my coffee in the Civil department. I was always ready to innovate and create. I have made a self-irrigation sprinkler, self power generating walking stick etc.

Why did you choose to work on social initiative?

My favourite pastime has always been admiring nature. I feel refreshed and energetic whenever I am surrounded with trees, greenery and the beautiful creations we have got from nature. My admiration for nature attracted me towards the newly formed lake around the Shani temple which I often visited with my friends. But gradually, its condition started deteriorating, a little research made me realise that the severely polluted water was a result  of the disposal of waste material from the temples. This moved my heart. I immediately had an idea. I thought of using the waste materials and creating wonders ,now I needed a team, this problem was short-lived as I started working with the jail inmates, this idea not only helped the lakes near the temples flourish, but it also brought me close to the innocent faces behind the bars. You will be shocked to know that 69% of the inmates are innocent. We also started creating opportunities for them.

How did you get started?

My initial motto was to somehow recycle the temple wastes so that water pollution gets reduced. After researching I discovered that a combination of coconut husk & Ash formed a strong binder which could be moulded & cast into figurines. So we came up with the idea of recreating idols & miniature art work from the combination. We had no idea about how we could start the work related to moulding?

Our Incubation Center guided us to work with jail inmates. This way we could not only upcycle temple wastes but also provide prisoners with a better future after they received bail. The initial thought was ‘Working with jail inmates would not be easy for us’. But after spending time with them, we realized that most of them were imprisoned without any investigation & forced to serve a sentence for no reason. This start up has provided them with a living & earning. 

Since then we are providing a helping hand to the prisoners by training them to mould idols & accordingly paying them for their work.

Initiating a startup, especially one which aims to serve society, needs a strong minded team in which the members can give their 100%. What is more challenging is choosing the right members for your team.
I would like to start with Azam with whom I interacted when I visited the college for hiring interns for my startup. Azam had several other better options where he could have earned proper recognition as an intern, but he chose Energinee Innovations to work. Since then, he has been consistent, giving his best performance & exploring outside his comfort zone. Now he’s not only working as a designer but also as an R&D manager. Another significant member is Lakshya, who has gained broader sense of knowledge by working with jail inmates & has gone through personality development while learning how a team actually works. Aman, a mechanical engineer, is a part of the R&D team alongside Azam. He is really passionate about serving the society. In his journey with Energinee Innovations, he has learnt & experienced a lot in the startup environment. Eventually as our startup has progressed, many interested volunteers have joined & now form the budding team of Energinee Innovations.

A combined team effort with trust & dedication towards our work has added up to the success rate of our startup.

What are the challenges? How do you address them?

Challenges are inevitable. At some point of time every individual faces challenges in accomplishing their goals. I faced some too. My parents have been really supportive. 

My journey from a self powered walking stick to a company creating sculpture, idols.etc from waste materials has seen several ups and downs.  Earlier the team struggled with fear, uncertainty and doubts when we first explored the idea of up-skilling the prisoners to create the handicrafts but today we have overcome our hurdles and are working for a better tomorrow.

What problem do you solve?

We work on problems with waste management and the rehabilitation of prisoners. We collect waste from the temples, filter them and bring out the best in them. We collect waste from the temples with the help of several government authorities, filter them and dump them into the jail where our team mates make sculptures, idols, and several other products out of them.

What skills are needed for the job? How did you acquire the skills?

According to me the basic skills that a man requires to flourish in his idea are the three golden rules of patience, hard work and determination, without implementing these three rules there is no way that one could attain the peak of his success. For being a true entrepreneur, one requires good skills of team management and leadership. I believe skills are not learnt, rather they are developed by exploration, practice and confidence. 

What is a typical day like?

Most of my days are spent travelling around. Other days I am just sitting in my office discussing the agenda for the day. I spend half of my day attending meetings, conferences and interviews.  Post this I like to take a walk around my office admiring nature.

What is it you love the most about your job?

We at Energinee do not create products, we create stories. When you bring a smile on someone’s face, it not only overwhelms you but also brings a sense of satisfaction. The part which I love the most about my job is the sense of satisfaction it brings out in the families of the inmates.  

Any awards, prizes, accomplishments?

I have been felicitated with many awards in different events. I have been awarded by the Prime Minister’s office and by the Chief Minister of Haryana for my projects. I have also received the Young Entrepreneur award by Greater Noida Authority. I have received the Udyam award by MSME. Featured in the list of 20 in 20 Open Magazine and Received the title of Waste to WoW by The New Indian Express

I have also been selected for the first global edition of Ashoka Young Changemaker from India and currently Incubated in Atal incubation Center BIMTECH.

How does your work benefit the environment?

We work by managing the waste collected in the temples and converting them into various artistic sculptures with the help of the jail inmates. This way we are not only saving the water bodies from getting polluted but are also creating job opportunities for the jail inmates. Our work is mainly focused on creating a better world.

Tell us an example of a specific memorable work you did that is very close to you.

I remember visiting one of the jails before Holi for distribution of colours and sweets. One of the inmates got emotional and hugged me tight. When I asked him what the matter was, he said that because of the salary that we give him, it’s not just him who had a memorable holi , but it was his family too who celebrated holi with love and happiness. This moment will always stay close to my heart. It feels great to see that your work is having such a great impact on people.

Your advice to students based on your experience?

Age is just a number, be passionate and keep following your dreams.

Future plans?

I plan to extend my facilities and train the women inmates. I wish to extend my job opportunities for the women inmates too. I have an aim to cover more than 500 temples under this initiative and make the lakes free of pollution. Driven by empathy and social Impact our aim is to bring positive change in the lives of Billions of people.